The public capital campaign to revitalize the building is now underway
by J.O. Parker
The revitalization of the Grinnell Veterans Memorial Building is moving forward, and organizers have announced a public capital campaign to raise the $1.9 million needed to complete the project.
The announcement came during a virtual event on Thursday, Sept. 10. The goal is to transform the building into a place of honor for those who have served, as well as a home for an artists’ residency and a space for community gatherings.
The Prairie Star Residency, as it is being called, is the only artists’ residency in the nation with a focus on veterans. Four to eight artist residents at a time will live in the building for up to six weeks.
“An artist residency is a safe and comfortable environment to share art and life experiences and develop connections with other artists and the surrounding community,” said Tom Lacina, campaign co-chair. “Prairie Star Residency’s unique focus on veterans will not only serve those veterans who attend, but will also enrich and educate the community of Grinnell about the arts generally and the breadth and variety of veteran experiences in particular.”
The Grinnell Veterans Memorial Building, which is located on the southeast corner of Broad Street and Fourth Avenue next to Central Park, first opened in 1959. It served as a community center, dance hall and gathering place for veterans and community members for many years. The building was closed in 2010 when asbestos was discovered and later removed. Since that time, the building has fallen in disarray.
This new concept of utilizing the building as a veterans artist residency was the idea of Lacina, a Grinnell lawyer and long-time promoter and supporter of arts in the Grinnell community. He presented the idea to the Grinnell Veterans Memorial Commission in January 2017. The veterans commission, which is appointed by the mayor, is charged with overseeing the building. The commission consists of Dr. Teresa Coon, chair; Randall Hotchkin, vice-chair; Gwen Rieck, secretary; Leo Lease and Terry Stringfellow.
“By March, the veterans commission was on board with the idea,” noted Lacina.
In November 2017, a levy was voted on by Grinnell residents and passed. Lacina said the levy provides about $110,000 yearly for the project over a 20-year time frame.
In the following months, Lacina worked as a liaison with the Grinnell City Council and Mayor Dan Agnew worked as a liaison with the veterans commission to develop a relationship between the council and commission.
“We all have to work together on this project,” said Lacina.
In February 2018, the City of Grinnell passed a resolution of support for the Grinnell Veterans Memorial Building rehabilitation and private fundraising campaign.
In mid 2018, RDG Planning and Design was hired to develop plans for the revitalization of the building.
In late 2018, Amperage Marketing & Fundraising was hired to do a study on the project and its needs in the community.
In 2019, the veterans commission contracted with Amperage on the project.
Original plans were to launch the capital campaign in April, but due to COVID-19, the date was moved to September.
Lacina said the goal is to finalize the drawings so that the commission can seek bids on the project in early 2021.
The upper level of the building will feature an expanded glass entry and veterans display area.
“It (the entry) actually raises the profile of the building,” said Lacina.
The elevation of the front will extend through to the building’s southeast corner where a public terrace and deck overlooking Central Park will be located.
“The building will have two entries, one from the front and one from the park,” said Lacina.
Other first floor features will include a veteran meeting room, event and meeting space and artist studios and multipurpose space.
The lower level will hold most of the day-to-day operations of the Prairie Star residency. This includes five bedrooms, three bathrooms, a kitchen and creative space for the veterans in the program.
“Depending on the artist, they may never come upstairs,” noted Lacina.
Other features of the building include glass at the south end of the building. The west side of the building will feature large window shade, which will have each branch of the service listed on them.
Lacina said plans are for construction on the project to take place in 2022 or 2023. A timeline on when the building will be completed is not known at this time.
The project has received support from the Grinnell Veterans Memorial Commission, the Grinnell Historical Museum, National Veterans Art Museum, Grinnell Area Arts Council, Poweshiek County Veterans Affairs Commission, Iowa Gold Star Military Museum and the City of Grinnell.
It will be a living, working memorial to honor our veterans through art with a focus on veterans from Iowa and beyond, noted a press release.
“It is a way to bring people together, tear down walls and open minds,” noted Randall Hotchkin, vice-chair of the veterans commission, in a press release. “It will provide something to the community that a lot of small towns are lacking – a niche that sets Grinnell apart – a place to be proud of, to visit and to memorialize loved ones in a unique way.”
There are opportunities for naming rights for specific areas of the building, starting with donations of $10,000 or more. Gifts may also be made in cash, grain or securities. Matching gifts are welcome and pledges are encouraged. Gifts may also be made in honor or in memory of someone. All donors will be recognized for their contribution to the project.
Tax-deductible contributions should be made payable to Greater Poweshiek Community Foundation and mailed to P.O. Box 344, Grinnell, Iowa 50112. Please designated on the memo line to the Grinnell Veterans Memorial Building. For questions, please call GPCF at 641-236-5518.
For more information or to keep track of the campaign, visit PrairieStar Residency.org or Grinnell Veterans Memorial Building on Facebook.